The ASK…ministry or a burden?

I have been involved in missions for over three decades, and in that time I have personally found that one of the biggest hurdles for people raising support is the Ask. Most people are afraid to ask or don’t know how to ask for support. Unfortunately, a lot of times, we treat support raising “as a necessary but unpleasant activity to support spiritual things. If God has called you into ministry support raising is first and foremost a form of ministry.”

When I first started raising support, I had this attitude towards support raising too. In the early 1980s, I attended the Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment (ACMC) National Conference. I listened and learned a lot. The next year I was asked to be a board member and the following year to be the first field staff. My wife and I were thrilled at the thought of serving the Lord and helping churches fulfill the Great Commission. Once the excitement wore off, though, I realized we had to raise support.

My first support-raising letter to individuals resulted in only $25. Thank goodness, my home church took on 30%!  Since I was working with churches, I felt they should support me, so I started ASKING them to support us. Some said no because I was not going overseas, but several did support us. Over the next 3 years, we reached our goal with a lot of help from one missions pastor, in particular, and from several prayer warriors.

spirituality fundraisingI recently picked up a booklet by Henri Nouwen entitled “The Spirituality of Fund Raising”. If I had read that book when I started raising support, it would have been a different ball game. God gave me a passion for helping churches, but I lost that passion when it came to ASKING for money. Like many others, I saw support raising as a “necessary but unpleasant activity” instead of part of my ministry.

Most of us are afraid to ASK. Let me give you an example. The CEO of ACMC asked me to invite a wealthy friend to lunch with the idea of asking him to support a project. We met at his country club. My boss talked about everything, and my friend joined in. They talked for almost an hour and no ask. I nearly died. My CEO was a wonderful, godly man, a graduate of West Point and a high-ranking officer. But, he was afraid to ask.

Conversely, when you aren’t afraid to ask, God can move in big ways. Two years later we hired a development person. I was asked to take my friend to lunch with our development person. After lunch and some conversation, I was asked to tell about a project. The next thing I knew our fundraiser asked for $20,000. My friend said he would let us know. Within a week we had $15,000.

Webster’s dictionary gives seven different definitions for the word ask. The one I like says, “to invite”. Henri J.M. Nouwen puts it this way, “Support raising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.” I challenge you to view support raising in this light, as a ministry instead of a burden, and don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll never know how God will work unless you do.

*All quotes are from The Spirituality of Fund-Raising by Henri J.M. Nouwen

By: Tom Telford, Missionary & Author with UWM and ACMC

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